Pakistan among worst violators of religious freedom: USCIRF

Pakistan should be put among among the worst violators of religious freedom due to frequent attacks on minorities, including Hindus, Christians, Shias and Ahmadiyyas, and actions of nonstate actors such as US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organisations Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, said US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in its annual report.

Taking the Nawaz Sharif government to task, USCIRF states, “In 2015, the Pakistani government continued to perpetrate and tolerate systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations.” The 2016 annual report was released on Monday.

“Religiously-discriminatory constitutional provisions and legislation, such as the country’s blasphemy law and anti-Ahmadiyya laws, intrinsically violate international standards of freedom of religion or belief and result in prosecutions and imprisonments,” the report noted.

An estimated two-thirds of all blasphemy cases in Pakistan occur in Punjab province, where the majority of Pakistan’s religious minorities reside. While Muslims represent the greatest number of individuals charged or sentenced, religious minority communities are disproportionately the victims of blasphemy allegations and arrests, as compared to their percentage of the country’s population, according to USCIRF.

The actions of non-state actors, including Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (Pakistani Taliban), continue to threaten all Pakistanis and the country’s overall security, noted the report, in what could be seen as echoing concerns that has been espoused by Pakistan’s neighbours, including India.

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